Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recap Of The Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultra

DARTer Bobby Aswell recounts his experience at the Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultra, held recently in Rocky Mount, VA.  To read all about it, head to the new DART blog:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

National College Blue Ridge Marathon Entry Giveaway

DART has been given a free entry to the National College Blue Ridge Marathon.  For more details go to our official page:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

DARTer co-founder Chad Randolph finds out that there are more to running ultras than just the distance.  Recently he, along with Todd Hartung and Val Matena, ran in the 49th annual JFK 50-Mile Race.   Visit the new DART blog to find out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon 2011

DARTer Tommy Wagoner ran his first marathon, the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, this weekend. Did he visit the Alamo?   Visit the new DART blog to find out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Opie At The Races: 2011 Recap Of The Mayberry 10K

DARTer Bobby Aswell ran the Mayberry 10K this weekend. How did he do? Visit the new DART blog to find out.

Click here to read Opie At The Races: 2011 Recap Of The Mayberry 10K

Sunday, November 13, 2011

DARTers have great races in Richmond, Charlotte

Over a dozen DARTers ran full or half marathons in Charlotte and Richmond yesterday. Want to find out more? Read the recaps over at our new blog at

First, Sarah Ferris recaps her experiences at Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon.

Then, Dave Munger recounts his effort to get a BQ at Richmond's Suntrust Richmond Marathon.

And make sure you update your bookmarks and readers to point to the new site, so you don't miss a thing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The BARF Strategy for the Suntrust Richmond Marathon

by Matt Williams

About an hour before the start, BARFers (Birkdale Area Running Friends) will meet at Fleet Feet and run to the start (looks like the closest one is in Roanoke; pack an extra Gu).

Just before starting we will discuss a not too hilly route with Dave Munger. Dave will present various elevation graphs and maps showing markers for every water fountain and bathroom. We will also discuss if Todd Hartung unfairly elbowed out a 10 year old at the "Pumpkin Chunkin 1 Mile Fun Run."

In the early miles, Tim will complain about the pace after having done a speed workout two weeks earlier. Terry plans to run in the grass on the side of the course to prevent getting run over by other bigger participants.

Around mile 5 or so, Matt will eat a Gu, make bodily function noises, and blame Mark Ippolito. Competition will begin to drop like flies.

Between miles 8 and 11 we will debate why you can't see the light from the sun out in space at night time. If that is resolved we'll note how in low humidity the road noise from the interstate is amplified.

The course is primarily flat and rolling, but there are some hills around this point in the race. We will focus and repeat to ourselves, "It's easier than Grey Road. It's easier than Grey Road."

Around mile 16 there is a bridge we have been warned about. It is long and somewhat exposed, allowing wind to be a potential problem. But us BARFers are not concerned because we have run across the covered wooden bridge at the bottom of South Street many times. Although we didn't do any specific bridge repeats, we should be okay.

Some people say a marathon can be divided into two halves - the first 20 miles and the last 6.2. But BARF member Terry Ake is much better at math than those people and has assured us that you are way past halfway at mile 20.

The Wall often shows up around this time. The stategy for this is to shout "Hey Teacher! Leave us kids alone!" and push through.

Whatever energy the BARFers have left at this point will be used to silently cuss each other for the peer pressure to sign up for a marathon and to plot revenge.

At mile 28, Tim will vow to never again run a "marathon" course designed by Chad Randolph.

Time For Some Rock 'n' Roll: Recap Of The 2011 Savannah Marathon

by Bobby Aswell, Jr.

When I first heard that a new Rock 'n' Roll marathon was coming to Savannah, Georgia, I was captivated from the start.  What could be better than running an inaugural Rock 'n' Roll marathon in one of my favorite cities to visit?  With all of its southern hospitality and charm, I knew Savannah would have something great to offer!

When the race was announced, I immediately booked a room at the Inn at Ellis Square in downtown Savannah.  Logistically, it was the perfect hotel located across from the waterfront only 2 blocks from the starting line and 3 blocks from the ferry ride to the expo.

Arriving Friday afternoon, the first order of business was to hit the expo to pick up my packet.  Opting not to deal with the traffic and parking issues, I headed to the ferry for the short ride over to the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.  Luckily, I arrived into Savannah around 2:30 pm so I missed the masses taking the ferry and only had to wait about 20 minutes before getting aboard!

Glad I got there early!  Very long line to the ferry for the expo.
One thing about the Rock ‘n' Roll races, they definitely know how to put on an expo!  I grabbed my number, t-shirt, swag bag, and then proceeded through the expo for some freebies.  While there, I saw almost as many Charlotteans as I did vendors!  With packet in hand, I left the expo, boarded the ferry, and returned to the hotel for a little relaxation before dinner.

Race morning arrived with the temperature around 48 degrees and 43 degree wind chill.  There was definitely a chill in the air and the wind was blowing 13-15 mph from the NNE.  Based on the course map, I knew we’d encounter some headwind but it also appeared that we’d get some tailwind.  Well, the headwind wasn’t shy and made itself known early in the race.  On the other hand, the tailwind must have been in hiding because I never felt it!

At the start bright and early to check things out!
With Joan Jett & The Blackhearts ‘I Love Rock’n Roll’ blaring from the speakers, the countdown began and we were off.  Billed as a flat course except for a ‘noticeable’ hill in mile 21, I was looking forward to a fast race.  However, I was almost immediately surprised when we encountered a decent climb in the first half mile.  That made me wonder what other surprises awaited us!

Since this was my 3rd marathon in the past 21 days, my plan was to settle into a comfortable pace and maintain the effort as long as I could looking to finish in around 3:05.  After a couple of miles, I was on pace and felt comfortable.  The miles rolled by and I was still running well through the half-marathon split off.  At that point, the field became much sparser but I continued running well and was still on target through 20 miles despite the wind that always seemed to be slapping me in the face!

With only a 10K to go, next came the ‘hill’, an overpass bridge leading to a desolate highway we would be running on for several miles.  The hill wasn’t too bad and ending up being the least of my worries as once we hit the bridge, the headwind became much more intense!

Running along what seemed to be a highway to nowhere, Mother Nature must have been getting a good laugh as the headwind was really smacking us in the face!  With nowhere to hide and no one to draft behind, I did my best to maintain my effort but my pace was definitely slowing!  After several miles, we finally exited the highway and thankfully, the wind became less intense.

With a mile or so to go, we merged back in with the half-marathoners in route to the finish.  Slightly uphill, seeing all of the half-marathoners motivated me as I always like having ‘targets’ to shoot for!  With the finish line in sight, I put my arms in the air and crossed the line in 3:09:14, Rock 'n' Roll marathon #1 in the books!

Rock 'n' Roll Marathon #1 is in the books!
After the race, I went back to the hotel to clean up and check out before having lunch with fellow DARTers Marc and Johane Hirschfield who finished the half-marathon.  After scarfing down a ½ pound cheeseburger, sweet potato fries, and a couple of cokes, it was time to hit the road for the 4 ½ hour drive back to Cornelius.

Delicious post-race lunch!
Even though I missed my goal by a couple of minutes, I was happy with my performance.  My first Rock ‘n' Roll marathon was in the books and a success!  And, as you’ve probably guessed, it won’t be my last!

Moving to a new site!

The Davidson Area Running Team has a new site: It's the same bloggy goodness, with all the features you're used to, and a few that you're not.

So please update your bookmarks, subscriptions, readers, and so on. We'll post reminders here when we put new stuff up over there, but we think you'll prefer to head straight to the source.

See ya there!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Time Keeps On Slippin’

by Allen Strickland, as originally written on his blog.

Dedicating this post to Jerry. Thanks for all you did for runners, Jerry. We'll miss you, buddy.

While many of my running pals near the Verrazano bridge, I’m sitting here with a bunch of aches and pains, coughs and wheezes.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was 85, not 45.

Back in February, I was all set to run New York today with my pals.  Caitlin paced me to a 1:29 half marathon at Myrtle Beach, fast enough to qualify for the New York marathon.  But I wouldn’t be running  in New York just yet – fate had other plans for me.  I discovered later that you had to run your qualifying time before January 31 in order to run this year’s race.  D’oh!  So I registered for the Savannah Rock and Roll marathon instead.

I ran through the spring with no formal, specific training plan and things were going well.  I ran my master’s PR in the 5k, an 18:58.  Then I broke 40:00 in the 10K for the first time.  Depending on what race time you entered, the McMillan Running Calculator predicted a marathon time for me of somewhere between 3:04 and 3:10.  Nathan wrote a training plan for me and I was excited about heading to Savannah and shooting for a huge PR.

But somewhere between the spring and summer, things began to go awry.  My left Achilles started bothering me.  Some lower abdominal pain crept up (psoas? It’s excruciating when I cough or sneeze.)  My race times started slipping downwards.  By late summer, the pain continued to worsen.  Then I ran a series of long, grueling races – Hood to Coast, Blue Ridge, and Salem Lake.  By the end of Salem Lake, I was hobbled.  A week later, I limped through the LungStrong 15K just to keep the streak of consecutive years alive (4, at this point).

After Salem Lake, it became apparent that I wouldn’t be running a marathon in 2011.  I’m down to one or two runs of 3-5 miles a week with stationary bike rides the rest of the week.  I’ve been reduced to vicariously enjoying the marathons of my friends.  I got text updates from the St. Louis marathon as I followed Dean (who missed qualifying for Boston by the narrowest of margins, 1 minute!)  I planned on heading down to Savannah to cheer everyone on but an unexpected cold (what is wrong with my immune system?!) halted those plans so that I could only follow everyone from afar.  And today, I’ll be watching New York results from my condo in Cornelius (with a taped delay viewing on NBC later in the afternoon).  Sigh.

Moral of the story – never take running, or life for that matter,  for granted.  In the past, I’ve spent so much time being frustrated when the rival du jour beat me by a few seconds instead of just enjoying the fact that I could race at all.  I vow to never take running for granted again – I plan to enjoy every step.  I want to follow the wisdom I once heard, I think from Benny Hill, yes British comedian Benny Hill: “Live every day as if it were your last because one day you’ll be right”.  On Wednesday, running friend Jerry Friesen passed away suddenly during a little run in his  neighborhood.  You never know which run will be your last, so enjoy them all.

The Achilles still hurts (now the right one has flared up too – what the?!)  The abdomen (psoas?) still hurts.  But I can run – these pains are manageable.  I ran a little 5-mile training run yesterday and the pain was minimal.  I need to start upping the mileage again soon if I have any hopes of running Boston in 5 months or so.  And if I’m ambulatory at all, I will finish Boston, even if I have to crawl a la Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham in the 1997 Ironman.  I plan to enjoy each and every step along my road to Boston.  See you there in April.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Turn and Burn 5k: Fisher Farm Park, Davidson, NC

By Chas Willimon

“Charles, have you looked outside?” read the Facebook message from fellow DARTer Tristan Van Vuuren on a cold and soggy Friday evening.  The rain was coming down pretty hard.  12 hours later, Tristan and I were planning to run a trail race on the very rugged, very technical single-track trails at Fisher Farm Park in Davidson.  Actually, I had committed only to the 5k trail run.  Tristan was planning on competing in the main event: an off-road duathlon (5k trail run, 16k mountain bike ride, 3k trail run).  Nonetheless, the depressing autumn rain looked to shut us both down for the morning’s race, if only for the sake of preserving the park’s rutted trails.

I got up early anyway with the intention of getting to the race venue to check in right when the registration tent opened.  If the race officials called the race off early enough, I would have just enough time to jet to Mooresville for the nearby Pumpkin Run 8k, where no fewer than half a dozen fellow DARTers would be sporting the team singlet and making us proud.  Surprisingly, the officials decided to go ahead with both the trail run and the duathlon.  I got on my Blackberry and messaged Tristan for fear that he might miss out on a race that he told me about in the first place.

Cold, wet, and grumpy on race day morning
When Tristan showed up, he looked as cold and grumpy as I was feeling…maybe even more so.  He had regular running shorts on, but nothing else on his legs.  I had a long-sleeve compression top, a quarter-zip middle layer, a rain jacket shell, neoprene leg tights, semi-fitted sweat pants, gloves, and a skull cap on, and I still felt chilly!  Tristan elected to run only the 5k instead of the duathlon.  Having just acquired his bike from its trip across the Atlantic, he did not want to spend hours cleaning the muck off from just one race.

The duathlon was the main event of the day, at least at this park.  There were over a dozen other races going on this morning, so ancillary events like our little trail 5k were bound to have small fields of runners.  Tristan and I didn’t mind.  The small number of runners allowed for a friendly, laid-back, non-competitive racing atmosphere.  This was a relief to me.  Two months earlier, I ran a 10-mile trail race at this park with pleasant weather and dry conditions, so I knew how punishing the trail could be.  I would have to take my time and concentrate on the drops, climbs, twists, and turns that were sure to be slick with mud and wet leaves—not to mention all the hidden roots and rocks waiting to introduce themselves to my big toe.

My new trail shoes
The course was to start at the bottom of the park’s large meadow and proceed directly uphill for about a third of a mile before plunging into the trails.  All of the runners jogged behind the race director on his mountain bike to the start line so we could get in one last warm-up before the start.  The shout of “go,” I strode out ahead of the small pack and settled into a quick pace for an uphill start.  I knew Tristan was close behind me in second place.  I purposefully eased up my pace as I rounded the corner of the tree line to head into the woods.  I was confident in the treads on my brand new trail shoes, but even they gave way on sharp turns to the soft red-clay mud that covers much of the region in wet conditions.  A quarter mile of downward-plunging switchbacks gave way to some flat track.  I felt more secure running on the grass five inches to the left of the track rather than sliding around in the rutted single-track with a U-shaped cross section.

The steady uphill that followed provided better footing, albeit at the price of a harder workout.  I decided to ignore my Garmin.  It is notoriously inaccurate on these particular trails, and therefore unreliable for any data except elapsed time (which I could have gotten from my five-dollar Big Lots wristwatch!).  I had to guess my pace and just race by feel.  I could still hear Tristan’s breathing behind me, but it was getting fainter.  Either I was pulling away, or Tristan’s vital signs were dropping.  I figured the former was more likely.  The trails were beautiful, even considering the previous night’s rain.  I just wish I could have looked up and enjoyed the seasonal view overhead a bit, but I was weary of losing my footing.
About 16 minutes into the race (I am guessing about two miles and change), the track opened up into some straight double-track.  I opened up my stride to take advantage and got too complacent with the conditions.  I caught my left big toe on a (root?) and stumbled forward.  I caught the ground with one hand and escaped a full face plant, but I winced for the next few dozen steps until the sting numbed its way out of my toe.

The course emerged from the trees and the last half mile took place in the grassy meadows.  The final stretch of the race was the same uphill as the start, and it was a lot less pleasant the second time up.  I passed by the transition area for the subsequent duathlon and trotted through the finish line as the overall winner with a time of 22:59.  This was quite far from my PR, but anyone who has run the trails at Fisher Farms can tell you that it is not a course for speed.  Tristan strode through the finish a couple of minutes later and claimed second place.  Go DART!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
DART representing 1st and 2nd place overall! Way to represent!
I must say that I respect Tristan’s decision to opt out of the mountain biking event.  With the slipping and sliding I experienced on my own two feet, I couldn’t imagine negotiating those trails balanced on two skinny tires!  Tristan and I did not stick around to see how the cyclists fared.  After collecting our medals and indulging in some tasty hot chocolate provided by the folks at The Cycle Path, we called it a day and basked in our personal victories, vowing to keep secret how small the racing field was.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Race Recap: The Mooresville Pumpkin Run 8K by Dave Munger

By Dave Munger. Originally posted on his blog Mungerruns.

The good news: My wrong turn didn't affect my overall placement in today's race.

The bad news: I took a wrong turn in today's race.

I came to the Mooresville Pumpkin Run 8K hoping to break my PR and keep a 6:30 overall pace. I knew it would be a little hilly, but not much different from the 6-mile loop that I run almost every day, so I felt like I was well-prepared for the race.

I also knew there would be lots of support from fellow DARTers, both on and off the course. Julie Alsop, Chad Randolph, Tommy Wagoner, Mark Ippolito, and Johane Hirschfield would all be joining me on the course, and everyone except Mark and me had spouses and other family members cheering them on. Johane's husband, DARTer Marc, took all the pictures in this post. Here's the group of us getting ready before the race:

Johane, Tommy, Me, Chad, Mark, Julie, and Chad's crew chief, James

There were a few delays getting started, so we all stood at the starting line trying to stay warm and nervously chatting. I introduced myself to a runner from Wilmington who looked fast, dispensing any thoughts I might have had about sneaking in an overall win in a diluted field (there are at least 14 races going on in the Charlotte area today, including the very popular Runway 5K, which gives runners the opportunity to run on an actual runway at the Charlotte-Douglas Airport as flights are taking off and landing nearby on the active runway!). DARTer Chris Goodrum was handling the timing for the race, and he joked with me that it was never a good sign when a race starts more than 5 minutes late. He turned out to be right.

We finally started about 10 minutes late, and Marc got a great photo of the scene at the start:

To my right in the yellow headband is Wilmington Guy

He also got another great photo of Chad and some other guy:

Mark, you need to work on hamming it up for the camera!

Tommy and the Wilmington Guy sprinted off to an early lead. I felt like I was running plenty fast and filed in behind Tommy. We cruised up the hill for the first third of a mile, then mercifully started downhill. I took a look at my watch and saw that I was running at about a 6:12 pace. Like I said, plenty fast.

About this point, a guy dressed in black blew past both Tommy and me. I tried to stay optimistic, figuring third was still an option if I could keep up with Tommy. I finished Mile 1 in 6:22.

For this race I wanted to try a new system: Instead of letting my GPS automatically click off miles, I would manually record each mile as I passed the marker, minimizing the error introduced by the GPS. So far it was working great. I kept Tommy in my sights as I ran the tangents. Mile 2 had plenty of downhill and finished on a nice, steady downslope. I passed Tommy and cruised past the marker in 6:18.

Man in Black was still in my sights, but seemed to be pulling away a bit. We came up to a stop sign, and Man in Black went straight ahead onto a street marked "No Outlet." This didn't seem right to me, but there was no one there to point us in a different direction, so I followed. Wilmington Guy was nowhere in sight. Then ahead I saw Man in Black stop in confusion. I heard a shout and turned around to see the runners behind us making a right turn at the stop sign. We had taken a wrong turn! I ran back to the intersection and fell back in line. There were now three runners in sight ahead of me, including Tommy.

I started to sprint to catch up to them, then realized I needed to just maintain a consistent pace, and fell back in stride. When I passed Mile Marker 3, my GPS read 7:14, but I had still kept a 6:28 pace for the mile because in fact I had run 1.12 miles.

I had figured Mile 4 would be the hardest mile on the course, with a steep uphill to start and a gradual uphill for the rest of the way. Man in Black passed me, but I started reeling in the other runners. I passed a man and a woman, and only Tommy was left. Finally I passed Tommy for the second time, even though he had never passed me. I was gaining ground on Man in Black. He was running a solid pace, and I felt it wouldn't be fair to pass him since he was well ahead of me when he made the wrong turn. Honestly, I'm not sure I could have passed him if I had tried. But by the end of Mile 4 I was right behind him. As I suspected, this was my slowest mile, at 6:37, but I was still on track for a sub-6:30 pace.

Mile 5 had a long steady uphill, then a downhill finish. I stayed right behind Man in Black as we pushed to the top of the hill, then kicked as hard as we could to the finish. He finished about 15 yards ahead of me.

Me, striding into the finish. No pix of Man in Black.

At the finish, there was another bit of confusion. Chris said I was actually the fourth to cross the line, behind Wilmington Guy, some other guy, and Man in Black. He asked me if I had seen that other guy on the course and I said I hadn't. Apparently he had made an even worse wrong turn and skipped a half-mile of the course, and so was disqualified. That meant I was third overall, with a time of 33:09. Awesome!

I turned and waited for the other DARTers to finish. Tommy was right behind me, first in his age group. Mark and Chad finished 1-2 in the 45-49 group, and Julie and Johane were 2nd and 3rd overall females! Every DARTer in the race got an award!

Tommy, just ahead of the women's overall winner


Mark is almost too fast for Marc to catch on film

Chad and Crew Chief crossing the line

Johane schooling a Man in Black imposter

I won a trophy and a $20 gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods -- not bad. Then I was pulled aside with the overall winners for an official photo, which the photographer said would appear in the local newspaper, although she was not sure which one.

Here's a shot of (nearly) all the DARTers with their hardware after the race.

Apparently Johane, Chad and Julie didn't get the memo about wearing BRR shirts for the photo

My Garmin measured my average pace at 6:25, but officially it would be 6:40 per mile because of the missed turn. Either way, it's a PR at this distance, and it makes me confident that I may be able to break the 20-minute barrier in a 5K, since all that's needed for that is a 6:26 pace.

Hopefully the next 5K I run will have a better-marked course.

Note to race directors: Ideally you should have signs in addition to people standing at each turn in a race. I don't why the volunteers weren't there in our race, but it affected several runners. Even Wilmington Guy, who finished in 30 minutes flat, said that he was confused at that turn and nearly missed it. There was an arrow painted on the street, but it was very difficult to see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Of The Best - Recap Of The 2011 Ridge To Bridge Marathon

by Bobby Aswell, Jr.

Sometimes you try something and think it can never get any better than this!  Then, you try it again and low and behold, it’s better than you remember!  This year marked my 4th consecutive year running the Ridge To Bridge Marathon and just when I didn’t think it could get any better, it did!

A great race to set a PR or get a qualifying time for Boston, word is getting around among runners about this race so it’s getting harder and harder to get into.  With a small field size of 300 runners, registration opened at noon on June 1, 2011, and closed just 7 ½ hours later!  Amazing!

Race day rolled around and with the alarm clock set for 3:15 am, my race morning started bright and early!  After a quick shower, I loaded the travel mug with coffee, jumped into the Jeep, and hit the road for the 2 hour drive to the finish area at the Brown Mountain Beach Resort in Caldwell County to catch a bus to the starting area.  I arrived at 5:30 am with plenty of time to spare before the buses left at 6:30 am.  After a quick pit stop and some relaxing in the Jeep, it was time to board a bus for the 45 minute drive to the starting area.  What better way to travel than relaxing in a luxurious heated bus!

The bus arrived at the starting area in Jonas Ridge around 7:15 am with plenty of time to get ready for the 8:00 am start.  To stay warm, the buses stayed around until after the race started which was a very nice touch!  After several more pit stops, it was time to roll!

Even though the race is net downhill, it’s still a challenging course.  From the start, the first 5 ½ miles or so are on pavement best described as rolling hills.  Then the fun begins!  Once you hit the old forest road, it’s mostly downhill for the next 10 miles through the Pisgah National Forest.  However, to keep you honest, there are several good inclines thrown into the mix.  With the downhill section done, the last 10 miles are mostly flat, and, assuming you have something left in the tank, run very well to the finish.

Having run the Medoc Trail Marathon the week before, I really had no idea what to expect in this race but was shooting for a best case time of 3:10, assuming all of the pieces fell into place.  My plan was to start out at a comfortable pace and to run the same effort the entire way.  This meant I would speed up slightly on the downhill sections and slow down slightly on the uphills.

The race started and we were off.  For the first 5 ½ miles, I ran a comfortable pace trying to relax and stretch my legs out.  When we hit the dirt road, people started flying down the hill!  Holding back, I maintained my effort with a slightly faster pace and felt good cruising down the hills.  With the leaves changing, the scenery was gorgeous!  Around mile 16, the downhill section ended and I did my best to hold it together the last 10 miles.  Luckily for me, my plan worked and I ran better than expected finishing in 3:06:33 (including pit stop) and even managed to get 3rd in my age group and received a very nice pottery award.

Incredible view of Wilson Creek
The post-race race atmosphere of this race is amazing!  Set on Wilson Creek, the scenery is magnificent!  And, of course, the post-race spread is incredible including barbeque, hamburgers, pizza, pumpkin bread, peach cobbler, chips, Gatorade, soda, and more!  After slamming down a Mountain Dew and a couple of slices of pizza, it was time for a post-race massage!  Between the heated massage cabin and the relaxing music, I almost fell asleep getting my legs worked on.  It felt great!

This is absolutely one of the best races I’ve ever run!  From the heated busses that take you to the starting area, to the fabulous volunteers working the race, to one of the greatest post-race spreads ever, this race is awesome in every aspect!  Can’t wait for the 2012 version to roll around!

Enjoying the post race scenery

Monday, October 24, 2011

Grindstone 100 Race Recap

by Jeremy Alsop, as originally published on his blog.

I had a very easy feeling during the 4 hour drive to Camp Shenandoah on Friday morning, most likely due to the fact that my gem of a wife was in the driver's seat and had all of my needs for the entire race planned for.  I thought I would be a nervous wreck but everything for the race came together so well that I really had nothing to worry about.  My thought process was to just run my race, take one step at a time and enjoy the adventure.  My goal throughout the past two years has been to run and finish this race and I had been preparing for it ever since I first got back into running ultras in early 2010.

My first goal was to finish the race but to also finish it healthy so I could continue in the Beast Series.  Second goal was to finish it in 26-28 hours, but being as this was my first 100 miler and not knowing what to expect, I was going to be ok if it took longer.  Horton told me during the Grindstone training weekend that it would be better for me to come to the race under-trained and healthy then over-trained and beat up.  I really took this advice to heart and since I work two full-time jobs, coming to the race undertrained was not going to be a problem.  I put in some quality back-to-back long runs on the weekends ranging between 20-30 miles each day.  Instead of going out for a quick 7- or 8-mile run during the week, as I often have to do, I opted to go to Gold’s Gym and get on the revolving stair climber for an hour instead.  Doing that for 2–3 hours a week I think really paid dividends on preparing me for the long climbs of Grindstone.  I also put in 54 miles over night during the Woods Ferry 24hr race in Sumter, SC exactly four weeks out.

Only 23,000 ft up and 23,000 ft down.
The afternoon of the race was very peaceful and relaxing for me.  After the pre-race briefing I killed time competing in the Grindstone Arm-a-thon, an arm wrestling contest that several LU students organized.  I really loved this idea, but for some reason I guess the other runners wanted to conserve their energy so it never really got going full steam.  I decided to head back to the car where I took a 15 min power nap and then spent the rest of the time with my feet up enjoying the beautiful fall weather and the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains.  By this time, my father-in-law and brother-in-law arrived completing my crew, which also consisted of my beautiful wife.  Since we live in different states it was good to spend an hour or two with them catching up before I needed to start getting ready. 

Fighting off nerves or wasting energy??
Before I knew it, it was 5pm and I started getting everything ready.  I wore Mizuno Trail Ascend shoes, Powersox and Patagonia Trail 9 shorts.  I also opted to start the race with a 70oz Camelback so I would be sure to drink enough fluids with the plan of dropping it probably at the half way point.  Knowing the trails, since I did the Grindstone Training weekend, I also used a Princeton tech head lamp and decided to have a light-weight LED flashlight.  I would use the headlamp while climbing but would add the flashlight on the very technical downhill sections.

My Crew:  Dad, Dan and Julie
After a word of prayer with my crew and snapping a few pictures it was time to get behind the starting line.  “Here I am, after two years of waiting, I am actually going to do this,” I told myself.  And in all honesty, I couldn’t wait!  All I wanted to do was get this thing started.  6pm hit and next thing I know, we are off.  I repeated what Horton had told me a few weeks prior.  My problem was going to be going out and wanting to race, he told me:  “Take it slow, run where you are supposed to run, walk where you are supposed to walk and make sure you have something left to run on the back side of the course.”  Meaning, take it easy on the climbs and take it easy on the long descents.  The first 22 miles or so I ran with two guys that I ran with during the Grindstone Training weekend.  They were running well and I found myself exerting more energy than I felt like I needed to at the time so at Dowell’s Draft Aid Station (the first crew access) I decided I would have to let them go and maybe I would catch them on the back half of the course.

It was 10:50 PM when I got into the first crew access aid station and it lifted my spirits to see Julie and Dad waiting for me with some personally requested items for replenishment and some motivating words.  They had everything I needed ready to go, which kept my time at aid stations to a minimum.  I drank some of my Hulk Smoothie, grabbed some Clif bars and changed into a long sleeve shirt and headed on my way.  While I was at the Aid station, a good friend of mine, Ryan came up to me and asked if I wanted to run together for a while.  Ryan and I have ran numerous races together and run a pretty similar pace.  He finished the Beast series last year and is attempting to finish number two this year. 
The next 14 miles went very uneventful.  There was a pretty tough climb coming out of Dowell’s Draft, but it being still early in the race and catching up with what was new with Ryan made it go by pretty easily.  Then there was a pretty long technical downhill heading into North River Gap aid station, which is crew access number two.  It was now 2:30am and I was still feeling really good.  Julie and Dad were there waiting for me, but they informed me that they had gotten lost and it had taken them over 2.5 hours to get there from Dowell’s Draft.  Crew directions said it was only 11 miles and should only take 25 minutes.  They said that there were not too many road signs on United States Forest Service Roads.  My crew was not the only ones that got lost trying to get to this aid station, because Ryan’s crew was not even there yet, 3 hours later.

Again, they had everything I needed for me to get in and out.  I drank a Red Bull and some more of my Hulk Smoothie and downed some pierogies which were being prepared fresh by one of the aid station volunteers.  North River Gap was the second place runners were getting weighed in.  I must have been staying hydrated, because I hadn’t lost a pound.  I opted for some gloves at this point because it was getting pretty chilly on the top of the ridges we had been running on and I knew we were only going to be going up until the turn around.  North River Gap aid station was probably the hardest point of the race because it was at the lowest point of the course.  It was a very long, technical descent to get into it and a long technical climb out as well and we would be doing it twice, the second time at mile 66.

After about a 10 minutes rest at the aid station, Ryan and I headed back out to a very tough climb.  Ryan, unfortunately did not get to see his crew and would now have to wait until the turn around to see them.  The next aid station was about 7 miles, of which all seemed to be up hill.  After a pretty tough climb we made it to Little Bald Knob.  I was greeted by JB, who happens to be one of 9 people to have ever finished the Barkley Marathons.  He grabbed my Camelback off my back, asked what I was drinking, filled it up for me and then put it back on for me.  We were pretty excited about the fact that we knew we only had 8 miles or so until we reached the halfway point, but the downside to that was that we would have more climbing  to do to get there.

I kept reminding myself that we were going to be able to run down all of this in a few hours.  I was still feeling pretty good considering it was probably about 4 am at this point and I had been up since 6am the previous day.  I was really looking forward to getting to Reddish Knob because we were on pace to get there right at sunrise.

Doesn't do it justice.

Finally getting to the summit of Reddish Knob was probably the highlight of the race for me.  We made it there at about 6:45 am, 12hours and 45 minutes into the race, and were rewarded with a breathtaking view.  It had been a perfectly clear night so you could see millions of stars because there was no ambient light at all.  To make it even better, you could look to the east and see the beautiful, pastel colors of a sunrise just barely cresting over the mountains.  I could have stayed there forever.  It was so beautiful, I had to get on my knees and say a quick prayer.  I thanked God for giving me the ability to run the first half of this race and allowing me to see His beautiful creation in a way that very few people will ever get to experience.  I have to thank Clark for starting this race at 6pm. I have to think that he did that on purpose, so that we could enjoy this view.  From here to the halfway point which was also a crew access point was a few miles of pavement, which I thought would be a welcome change, but it was actually quite painful.
After a few painful miles on pavement, we came to all the cars of all the other crews who were waiting to see their runners at the turnaround.  I saw the Honda Pilot sitting there but did not see Julie, Dad or Dan.  We still had another mile and half climb to the turnaround and I really started to get worried that they all thought they had to climb to the top of the mountain in order to see me.  Not knowing where they were, I decided they had to be up at the top, so I headed on my way.  After climbing for another 30 minutes or so I finally reached the summit and there they were.  They had made the one and a half mile hike up the mountain carrying all my gear.  I felt pretty bad, but they didn’t mind because they got to see the sunrise as well and I know they didn’t mind getting a little exercise and a chance to stretch their legs either.

I finished off my Hulk smoothie while dad kinesio taped my left IT band.  It wasn’t bothering me too bad but the few miles of pavement that we had just ran aggravated it a little.  After spending about 15 minutes with Dad and Julie, I pried myself away from their company and the warm fire and started to retrace the long trek back to Camp Shenandoah.

I felt fantastic all the way back to North River Gap, which was at mile 66.  The majority of the way back to North River Gap is all downhill and it really felt great.  My energy was good, my legs felt good and I was starting to really look forward to the remainder of the race.  “This isn’t so bad,” I kept telling myself.  Then I remembered what a good friend of mine told me before I left for Grindstone.  He told me, “Just remember, the race doesn’t start until mile 65.”

After a quad punishing, technical 3 mile descent into North River aid station I started having some pain on my right big toe.  When I ordered my new Mizuno Wave Ascends, I opted for a half size bigger because of an issue that I had with my new Wave Riders being too tight.  I took my shoe off at the aid station and I had developed a pretty good size blister and had a bloody toenail, my first one of my ultra running career.  I guess I should have stuck with my half a size smaller.  There was nothing I could do about it now.  It was now a beautiful warm fall day and was just before lunch.  I changed shirts again and picked up my first pacer of the day, my brother- in -law Dan. You can actually pick up a pacer at the half way point but because I knew it was all downhill, I wanted to save him for the tough climb out of North River Gap.

After a few minutes we were off to begin the relentless climb up Lookout Mountain.  In my opinion this was probably the toughest climb of the race.  It was short but relentless and extremely technical.  On a side note, we were about half way up the climb, and I looked up and saw three mountain bikers flying down this technical downhill.  I could not believe how fast they were going down this mountain.  I give props to them because I don’t know that I would ever do that.

At this point in the race was when my achilles started to bother me.  It was getting so tight on the climbs, and I felt like if I took a wrong step on a rock that it had the potential to rupture.  So I had to stop every few minutes and try to stretch it.  The good thing was on the flats and downhills it would loosen up and I was still able to run.  This cycle continued on until mile 80, which was back at Dowell’s Draft, where I could see Julie and Dad again.

Dowell's Draft Mile 79

We made it back to Dowell’s Draft for the second time and it was a little different scene compared to the night before.  I spent a few minutes there stretching and trying to force down some calories, but really didn’t feel like eating (bad sign number one).  From there Julie was going to run the final 22 miles with me and Dad decided he wanted to run the next stretch to Dry Branch Gap aid station, about 6 miles.
And this was when the wheels fell off.  It was about 6 miles of all climbing and my achilles was not too happy.  I had to find two sticks that I could use as hiking poles to get up these climbs.  And because I hadn’t been eating, my energy was gone along with my desire to continue.  I couldn’t possibly imagine walking the final 18 or so miles to the finish so I thought to myself: “Why put myself through that debacle. “ Julie, being the great crew that she had been for the past 20 hours, recognized that I hadn’t been eating.  She made me sit down on a fallen tree and eat a cliff bar.  I argued that I couldn’t eat it, but to no avail she won.  Amazingly during this 6 mile death march, I didn’t get passed by one person.  Everybody else must be feeling as bad as me.  I had told myself all throughout the race that I didn’t care about what place I came in but it was weird to think I hadn’t seen a single person.

After spending about 5 minutes with my father-in-law stretching my achilles, (who by the way is a physical therapist and gave me a great advantage having him on my crew), we decided to continue on.  We finally stopped climbing and after a mile or two of ridge running we began a short, but steep descent into mile 86 aid station.  The Cliff bar really gave me some energy and because I was able to run some on the ridge my achilles loosened up.  That was a big boost of confidence.  At the aid station my dad kinesio-taped my achilles and that really seemed to help.  I ate some of my chocolate covered espresso beans and had another Red Bull and a turkey and cheese sandwich.  I felt amazing!  Ultra-running really is about managing the highs and lows of the race.  You are going to have lows but it’s all about pushing through them because you never know how fast a low can transform into a high.

It was starting to get dark for the second time of the race and knowing it was a tough 8 mile stretch to the last aid station I put on another long sleeved shirt and grabbed my head lamp and Julie and I headed out for yet another tough climb.  This time I was feeling great and couldn’t wait to get this climb done.  I believe it was about 4 miles up Elliot’s Knob and then 4 miles back down.  It was a gorgeous climb up because the sun was just starting to set and it was a perfect fall evening.  I really enjoyed this stretch of running with Julie.  It was really cool to share this experience with her and I am so glad I have a wife that is supportive in my running addiction and that she enjoys to run as well.  We even talked about what would be a good first ultra for her.  Holiday Lake 2012??  J  We finally made it to where the trail turns off to the super steep downhill gravel road.  I remember climbing this about 24 hours ago thinking how nice it will be to run back down this.  WRONG!  The blister on my toe was not feeling good, neither were my quads for that matter, and three miles down this steep road were not going to help.  After a lame excuse of running, we finally made it to the last aid station.  Wow, did it feel great to get there.  We saw Dan and dad there, but wanting to get finished, we only spent a few minutes and we were off.  5 miles left, how bad could it be?  I knew there was really only one more small climb left, nothing like earlier in the race and some technical single track and we would be running around the lake back to the finish in no time.

By now, I really was starting to feel fatigued.  It was honestly the first time in the race that I had felt tired from lack of sleep.  Bust just as I was starting to lose energy, I started to recognize where we were at.  Finally back on the Boy Scouts camp’s property and then the best sign I have ever seen.  “1 Mile Left.”
As happy as I was to see that sign, I still couldn’t muster enough energy to run.  Nobody was behind me so I was content in walking until I got to the lake.  But of course, after not seeing another runner for hours, here comes somebody flying up behind me out of nowhere.  Well, never being somebody to get passed at the end of a race, the adrenaline kicked in and we started to run hard.  What felt like a 6 minute mile was really like 10 minute mile, but it didn’t matter, I was not going to get passed.  We ran around the lake and back onto the road that leads to the Camp and that long-awaited finish line.

We crossed the finish line in 28:15, good for 21st place.  After hugging the totem pole and receiving my finisher awards and a handshake from race director Clark Zealand, I hobbled inside to the cafeteria to sit down.  The months of planning and training that went into running Grindstone was a success!  I completed my first 100mile race, which also happens to be the hardest on the east coast.  After all the planning I did, the one thing I forgot to have ready was a dry pair of clothes at the finish line to change into.  I was shivering uncontrollably and could not warm up.  Julie ran back to the car and grabbed me some dry clothes and we headed off to the hotel for the night.

I could fall asleep right here.
I had wanted to run this race for over two years and to finally accomplish it felt amazing.  I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my fantastic crew of my wife, father in law and brother in law.  They did such a great job, especially for not ever doing anything like this before.

Ultra running has pushed me harder and taken me to places that I would have never dreamed.  I am thankful that God has given me the ability and desire to run.  I am also thankful to my wife and boys for sacrificing our time as a family on the weekends so that I could do long training runs.
Thanks to Clark and all the volunteers for making this such a special race.  Four races down and only two left to go in the Beast Series: Mt. Masochist 50 miler and Hellgate 100k!

The day after in my Patagonia swag.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Medoc's Revenge: Recap Of The 2011 Medoc Trail Marathon

by Bobby Aswell, Jr.

When I first read about the inaugural Medoc Trail Marathon in 2008, I knew I had to run it!  Besides loving to run inaugural marathons, this one had the distinction of being located only 45 minutes from my mom’s house so I’d get to ‘kill 2 birds with one stone’ as the ole saying goes.  That first year, the weather was perfect and I really enjoyed the race so I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with Medoc!

For those that don’t know, legend has it that Medoc was once a young doctor in the area who also happened to be an extremely fast runner.  Obsessed with getting faster, he made all kinds of nutritional concoctions trying to get an edge on his competitors.  After multiple failures, he finally found one that worked.  He became faster and faster as the days went by but also started developing bulges all over his body.  One day while in his office, he was permanently transformed into a beastly looking figure.  When one of his patients walked in, they screamed and asked ‘what have you done with the doctor’?  All he could say was ‘Me Doc, Me Doc!’ and so Medoc was born.  Rumor has it that each year at the race, Medoc pillars around the trails looking for racers to victimize.  After successfully avoiding him in 2008, Medoc would get his revenge this year!

Still trying to avoid Medoc even after finishing!
Located in Hollister, NC, the course is run inside Medoc Mountain State Park and consists mostly of single track trails complete with roots, rocks, bridges, steps, and, of course, hills!  And, the good news is, since it’s a loop course, you get to run it 3 times!

Race morning arrived and it was absolutely gorgeous!  By the 8:00 am start, the sun was brightly shining and it was about 50 degrees.  With a high for the day expected in the upper 70’s, things warmed up quickly but luckily, the trails provided a lot of shade from the sun.

The race starts with a short out and back on pavement before hitting the trail for the first of 3 laps.  The trail is mostly single track with a few Jeep trails mixed in but runners definitely need to follow the ‘keep your eyes on the trail’ rule as it’s covered with a lot of obstacles waiting to cause mishaps!  After a couple of miles, runners hit the toughest section of the race, the climb to the summit of Medoc Mountain!  It’s a steep climb that doesn’t get any easier the 2nd or 3rd time around!

The rest of the course is mostly rolling over roots and rocks, around stumps, across bridges, up and down some very steep steps, and more before finally exiting the trail en route to the next loop.  If you look closely, you may even see Medoc hiding in various locations along the way!  He’s a very imposing figure!

Running steady, I managed to avoid Medoc for 22 miles before he finally got the best of me with 4 falls in the last 4 miles!  Never expecting to fall, I’m always shocked the first time it happens.  In this case, I was cruising along when all of a sudden, around mile 22.5, I was down before I knew it.  Shook up, but no damage done, I bounced up and continued onward.  The second and third falls caught me off guard as well but again I bounced up and continued running with no major damage done.  However, Medoc was just playing with me at this point!

With about a mile to go, I picked up the pace and was about a half mile from the finish line when I tripped up for the 4th time!  Totally caught off guard, I went flying through the air like Superman and crash landed with a loud thump!  I hit the ground so hard that it almost knocked the breath out of me.  That one definitely hurt!  After realizing what happened, I got up, staggered around for a second or two, and then continued on towards the finish.

After crossing the finish line, I received one of the best finisher’s medals ever!  It’s 3-D with a picture of Medoc on the front and a picture of his ‘back side’ on the back!

Front side of 3-D medal

"Back side" of 3-D medal
 After catching my breath, I checked out the damage from the last fall:  2 banged up knees, bruised and scraped up right leg, arm, and shoulder all courtesy of Medoc!  At this point, the race director noticed my battle wounds and asked if I needed help cleaning them.  Not really thinking about it, I asked him to take a picture of the wounds before I cleaned them up.  He laughed and probably wondered if I was crazy!

Battle wounds after my 4th tussle with Medoc!  That fall almost knocked me out!
After cleaning my wounds, I picked up my finisher’s surprise ( a very nice runners hat) and then devoured some of the post race refreshments which included rice and beans, peanut butter sandwiches, cookies, all kinds of nutritional bars, fruit, snack cakes, peanuts, chips, and several different kids of soda..

All in all, it was a beautiful day spent on some of the nicest trails I’ve ever run.  I ended up with a great long run finishing in 3:50:47, 2nd in age (40 – 49).  And, even though I came face to face with Medoc several times, I’m already looking forward to returning for a 3rd visit!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Recap: The Bridges Half Marathon by Dave Munger

Here's Dave Munger's report on the Bridges Half Marathon, originally posted on his blog Mungerruns

Last week, when Todd Hartung asked on Facebook if anyone wanted to join him as he headed to Chattanooga to run the 7 Bridges Marathon, he probably didn't think he'd get any takers.

But as it turned out my weekend was clear, and since Todd had already paid for a hotel, it would be a cheap way for me to do a scenic out-of-town race. I opted to run just the half marathon, less because the full was sold out and more because I'm not ready to run a marathon; I have been focusing my efforts on the Richmond Marathon next month.

Todd picked me up on Saturday morning and we headed across the Blue Ridge towards Tennessee. It was a gorgeous 5-hour drive, as these photos I snapped along the way attest:

Fall leaves in the Smokeys

A kayak launch on the Ocoee River

After checking into the hotel in Chattanooga, we headed over to the packet pickup. There wasn't an "expo" to speak of but we were able to get the lay of the land and figure out where the race started. A good omen: I got an awesome race number!


After a good pasta dinner, Todd and I laid out our gear, watched TV and tried to relax before trying to get some rest. Todd set his alarm for 4:00 a.m., while I tried to sleep a little longer. Race time was 7 a.m. and I figured I could get up at 5:30 and be ready to head out the door by 6. In the end, I ended up getting up at 5:00 and we headed out a little early, 5:45.

The scene at the start of the race was a little confusing. We had been told to head to Renaissance Park for the start, but when we arrived we saw lots of runners wandering aimlessly, but no race officials, and nothing marked as a starting line. I couldn't tell if there was going to be a place to check my gear, so I decided to drop it at the car, about a third of a mile away at the finish line and near the packet pickup. There were plenty of race officials there, so I asked if there would be gear check and was told "no." I reluctantly headed the car and stripped down to singlet and shorts in the 46-degree morning. I'd have to shiver for 30 minutes before the race start.

When I got back to the starting area, after 15 minutes or so some race officials showed up and set up a PA system. The first thing they said: "Those red bins over there are for your gear." Sigh.

The reason no one could find the starting line, it turned out, was that there was no starting line. We simply lined up behind a crosswalk in the parking lot in the dark. At about 7:07, a police siren signaled the start and we were off.

Since I had run a 7:13 pace at the Run for Green half marathon, my plan was to try to go even faster this time around. I decided to try to keep every mile under 7 minutes. We ran around the corner and headed across the first bridge. The marathoners would be crossing 7 of them, while the half-marathoners, who started together with the marathoners, would cross four. Here's a photo I found of the first bridge:

It looked just like this, only darker

It was a gradual uphill to cross the bridge, then a slight downhill on the other side. We ran first through quiet downtown streets, then turned onto an arterial heading out of town.

Mile 1: 6:51

The road headed into an industrial area, so perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing that it was still pitch dark out. The police were doing a great job keeping the streets clear, mileage was very well-marked, and water stops were well-staffed. I was laboring a bit for breath, but was determined to keep the pace up.

Mile 2: 6:50

I kept running. The course wound along on an empty four-lane road and there were cones between the lanes going in each direction. Were we supposed to run outside the cones or inside them? Could we use the whole width of the road, or were we supposed to stay to the right? No one told us, so I ran tangents as much as I could. Then I saw the race leaders coming back down the opposite direction and figured it out. We were supposed to stay in the inside lane on the right side of the road -- the outside lanes in each direction were actually open to traffic (although there was none).

Mile 3: 6:44

We reached the turnaround and headed back down the same winding road. There were three or four guys in sight ahead of me, but beyond them I couldn't see any runners ahead. Hundreds of runners were going the opposite direction. I saw Todd running a much more reasonable pace in the marathon and we shouted encouragement to each other. Some runners I didn't know were also shouting words of encouragement in my direction: "You go, girl!" and "Girls rock!"

"There better be a girl behind me," I exclaimed. There was indeed a woman with blond hair in a pony tail running right behind me, and she laughed and asked what time I was shooting for. I said I was on pace to run about 1:30 right now, but I wasn't sure I could keep it up. She said she usually ran 1:29 or so, but this course was a little hilly so she wasn't sure she could do that here. Where I come from, so far this course counted as "flat," but I didn't mention that to her.

Mile 4: 6:52

We were still running along the same industrial road but we were gradually reeling in the guys ahead of us, headed back towards town. We wound through downtown streets, then started climbing the onramp onto bridge number two. Ponytail girl passed me and the last guy ahead of us, and I tried to follow.

Mile 5: 6:41

Now we were on a freeway, crossing the river again. Although cars were whizzing by at high speed, the runners had a full lane and a broad shoulder to themselves, and both the onramp and the offramp we used were completely closed to traffic. As we started down the hill on the back side of the bridge, I followed the bouncing ponytail. Then when we hit the somewhat steeper offramp, I accelerated and passed her.

Here's my exit: Cherokee Blvd

Now there was no one in sight in front of me. We were back on the same side of the river where we started and passed the original starting area as the sun finally peered above the horizon.

Mile 6: 6:41

We ran along a paved running / biking path next to the river, then up some steps and through a parking lot, and finally onto another onramp, for Bridge #3. This one was a fairly nondescript urban viaduct, and I couldn't find a picture of it online. But it was also the toughest bridge because the approach was solid uphill, and the bridge itself was a gradual incline.

Mile 7: 7:00

I was more than halfway done, but I was also beginning to feel exhaustion setting in. Every time I looked at my Garmin, my pace was creeping above 7 minutes, and I had to put extra effort into speeding up. Finally I made it across the bridge and went up an onramp and onto another freeway. This time I was running against traffic, but as before, the runners had a full lane plus a shoulder -- plenty of room since I was basically running alone, with no one in sight ahead. Or was I? I heard footsteps behind me. Was it Ponytail Girl? I didn't want to show weakness by looking back, so I tried to focus on good form and solid running. Then the runner behind me coughed and I could tell it was a man's voice. Possible age-group competition?

Mile 8: 6:43
Mile 9, more of the same: 6:47

Near the end of Mile 10 I could finally see a pair of signs. Could this be where the half-marathon splits off from the full? It could, and it was. But about 20 feet past the turn was a water station, and I needed a drink. I ran to the station and grabbed a cup, and not one but two runners passed me, skipping the station. I followed behind. What could I do, I needed water, right? Then 70 yards later I cursed myself: There was another water station for the half-marathoners.

Mile 10: 7:04

This was my first mile above 7 minutes, but I chalked it up to the water/turnoff episode. I soon passed the woman, who it turned out was not Ponytail girl. Perhaps her older sister? But the man, wearing a long-sleeved tech shirt, proved more elusive. I followed about 20 yards behind as we wound along one of the most scenic sections of the course, a lovely paved path overlooking the river. Finally I passed Long-Sleeve guy again, but again he stayed close on my tail.

Mile 11: 6:58

The next mile was confusing. I could see what must be our final bridge, but every time we seemed to be approaching it, the course would take a turn. While there were plenty of volunteers on the course to point us in the right direction, apparently they hadn't been instructed to actually point in the the direction we should be going as we approached. We couldn't see any runners ahead of us, so we didn't know which way to go. I took to yelling "which way?" as I approached anyone who looked like a volunteer. Sometimes they weren't volunteers, just old ladies out walking their dogs. Hopefully I didn't scare them too much. The course wound across overpasses and around corners, until finally a volunteer pointed sharply to the right. I turned, and faced a steep, block-long downhill. I wasn't ready for it, but Long-Sleeve Guy was, and he took the opportunity to sprint past me as I plodded down.

Mile 12: 7:29

Finally it seemed certain we were headed for the last bridge. Long-Sleeve Guy was about 20 yards ahead, and seemed to be slowing on the uphill approach to the bridge. As I slowly reeled him in, I decided I would pass him with authority. I breezed by as we crested the hill and started down the back side of the bridge, which was a lovely old pedestrian-only bridge with wooden floors.

The final bridge, site of my final conquest

I kicked it as hard as I could and didn't look back. I didn't hear footsteps behind me as I came off the bridge and was directed onto the sidewalk by a volunteer. The sidewalk? Really? There were pedestrians on the sidewalk, and so I decided to take my chances in the street, which was open to traffic but only had a few cars on it.

Mile 13: 6:52

At the point my Garmin showed 13 miles, the official Mile 13 marker was nowhere in sight. The Garmin had been recording the course as long on each mile, so I was getting farther behind the mile markers at each split. I turned into a park and spectators were shouting support: "You're almost there!" But I still couldn't see the finish line. I was directed onto a winding path, and a kid said "You're there!" I still couldn't see it. Finally, I ran past a magnolia tree and could see the finish line and clock. I sprinted in as the clock ticked 1:31:37.

Mile 13.34: 5:47 pace

The Garmin had been off by nearly a quarter-mile, but that's within the margin of error for this distance, and I was extremely pleased with my overall time. Although my watch showed a 6:52 average pace, based on the official 13.1-mile distance it works out to exactly 7 minutes per mile. I'll take it, as it is a PR by more than 2 minutes!

I went over to congratulate Long-Sleeve Guy, who finished right behind me. I thanked him for pushing me so hard at the end of the race. He thanked me too -- a great finish to a great race. Here's a photo of the finisher's medal.

I didn't figure out what the 4 was for until I saw Todd's with a 7. Aha! I crossed 4 bridges!

Then I grabbed a banana and headed back to the car to change. I returned to the finish area and saw that they were bringing pizza in for all the finishers. Awesome! I had a delicious slice, then went to the finish line to watch the half-marathoners and 5Kers finishing their races. It's always neat to see how excited everyone is when they finish their race. Whether you run a 1:05, a 1:31, or a 2:31, it's an impressive achievement to complete a half-marathon! Some moms ran across the line with their kids. Some fathers had clearly run the whole race with their sons or daughters. There were boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, and best friends holding hands as they crossed the line.

Finally the first marathoner crossed, in about a 2:40 overall time (the clock was off at this point -- more on that later).

First place!

He doesn't look too excited now, but he was absolutely thrilled when he realized he was the overall winner! About 40 minutes later, Todd came across the line, looking strong:

Well done, DART!

Todd's GPS had died at around Mile 15, and so he ran nearly half the race on feel, finishing in 3:22. Amazing! Just behind Todd was the female winner:

Another first place! Couldn't place the shirt but looks like she's on the same team as the male winner.

After a few minutes to recuperate and chat with some of the runners who had talked with Todd on the course, we headed back to the car for the celebratory post-race photo:

A good day for DART

It was about 11 a.m., and we heard the awards would be around 2 p.m., so we decided to go back to the room for a shower, grab lunch, and then catch the awards.

We got back around 1:15, and saw that all was not well. The clock had been shut down because the computers tracking the race had lost power mid-race. A couple of the timing guys were huddled over their laptop, but couldn't make sense of the results. Meanwhile an anxious group of runners was patiently awaiting the results. We waited, and waited, and waited. Finally around 2:15, Todd and I left to buy some souvenirs, hoping things would be sorted out when we returned. When we did finally return, the awards for the full marathon had been given out (very attractive beer mugs). We asked the timer if they had a result for Todd and he had placed fourth in his age group, just out of the beer mugs. Then we asked about my results, and were told that they would have to sort that out overnight. As of now, 4:38 on Monday, they still haven't figured it out.

That's not cool, not for a race that people paid $70 or more to participate in. In my case I'm not overly concerned about the official results (though I'd like one of those mugs if I earned one). But some people may have been attempting to qualify for Boston or New York with this race. If their times are not found, that could spoil months of training and preparation.

Overall, I had a great time at this race, but it's disappointing not to be able to see official results. I'll update this post if the results are ever posted.

Update: The results have finally been posted. Better late than never, but I wish the race directors had been more communicative about the problems. Here's what they should have done:
  • They should have explained to the runners that there was a technical glitch, that they expected to have the full results eventually, but they were going to take the time to get things right. 
  • They should have given the awards to the overall winners right away since that would be easy to sort out.
  • They should have announced they would hold off on the age-group awards, and notify those winners via email when the results could be verified.
  • They should have responded honestly to the many queries on facebook about when the results would be posted.
That said, I'm glad they finally got things sorted out, and that there did appear to be a backup plan.

So, how did I do? Not bad. My time was good for first place in my age group, and (I think) 13th overall and 11th male (there's no overall results listing, just age group listings). That easily puts me in the top 5 percent of finishers, both overall and within gender, which I believe is the best I've done in any race. Very pleased!

Todd finished third in age group, so it looks like both of us our going to receive those handsome beer mugs in the mail. A good day for DART.

You can see my GPS record of the race below.